Aditya Verma, 18, allegedly posted on Snapchat: ‘I’m going to blow this plane up, I’m a Taliban’
A British teenager arrested over a bomb hoax on an EasyJet flight is a chess-playing prodigy who has been offered a place at Cambridge University, MailOnline can reveal.
Aditya Verma, 18, allegedly posted on Snapchat: ‘I’m going to blow this plane up, I’m a Taliban’ and bragged he was going to blow up the aircraft that was en-route to Menorca packed with holidaymakers.
The threat saw two F18 fighter jets scrambled from a military base in the northern Spanish city of Zaragoza to escort the EasyJet flight after the alarm was raised on Sunday.
Today we can reveal that Verma, who was on the easyJet plane with friends, is the son of a doctor who grew up in the affluent Kent suburb of Orpington and attended a top-performing grammar school, St Olave’s.
Ten years ago he represented England in the world youth chess championships, finishing fourth, and was awarded a trophy by legendary Russian master Gary Kasparov. He is thought to have subsequently won four British championships.
Verma aims to study Economics at university and it’s understood he has been offered an undergraduate place at Cambridge contingent on him attaining the required grades in his A Levels.
He appeared in court for the first time yesterday, July 5, in a behind-closed-doors hearing.
His judgment could put his place at the University of Cambridge in jeopardy if he is found to have committed an offense (Pictured: Verma on his way to court yesterday, July 5)
The tourist, who is believed to have been part of a group of friends who boarded the Gatwick flight, now faces a potential fine worth thousands
The teenager at the center of the extraordinary bomb alert drama, pictured here with his mother, has not yet been charged with any crime
He recently completed a prestigious month-long internship at investment bank JPMorgan and has previously done a similar stint at HSBC.
Verma, who is of Indian heritage, recently said in an online interview about his prowess for chess that it has opened doors for him: ‘I have made lots of friends and get to play opponents from across the world.’
But last night he was appearing in court in Spain where a state prosecutor demanded that he should be liable for the £86,000 cost of scrambling the two jets.
Verma, described in court as a ‘brilliant student’, also faces a criminal conviction and four-figure bill for the Spanish police and MoD response operation.
If found it could affect his ambition to study at Cambridge – the rules are discretionary but it is mandatory to inform the University of any unspent conviction and any terrorist offense is highlighted on a list of the most serious..
Verma, described in court as a ‘brilliant student’, has an offer to study Economics from the University of Cambridge
The Verma family are thought to be very close. His mother, Dipti Prasad, who works for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, immediately flew to Menorca to support him on hearing of his judgment.
It’s understood Verma had been heading to the Spanish holiday island with five friends from school for a holiday to celebrate finishing sixth form and soon starting life at university.
Instead of an area associated with partying, often more popular with teenagers, the group had booked in the relatively quiet resort of Cala’n Blanes on the west coast of Menorca.
Verma had spent two nights in a police cell before being hauled to court.
The youngster is said to have insisted during the behind-closed-doors court hearing that he believed his macabre bomb ‘joke’ was private and intended only to be seen by the friends traveling with him on easyJet flight EZY8303.
Verma’s lawyer reportedly told the judge who that he had explained the Snapchat joke as being in reference to him having often been called ‘Taliban’ by friends because of his dark skin and Asian origin.
The teenager’s mum also told respected island daily newspaper Menorca outside court: ‘It was a joke.’
After hearing the prosecutor’s submission, Judge Belen Velazquez decided to set bail as £8,600 – one tenth of the sum he is potentially being charged. She also banned the Brit teenager from leaving Spain and ordered him to sign on at court every fortnight.
Verma (left) pictured with his mother, Dipti Prasad and father Anand. The family is understood to be very close and his mother flew straight out to Menorca to support him
His current whereabouts was not immediately clear, although he is believed to be with his mother who was able to greet him before he was escorted into court yesterday in handcuffs by two armed police.
The woman judge who bailed him has now handed the case over to the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s National High Court which has its HQ in Madrid, because it revolves around an issue of national security.
The court, which tries terrorism cases and decides on the extradition of British fugitives arrested in Spain, will have to decide whether to start its own investigation or hand the case over to the UK if it rules the alleged crime occurred in Britain under international air law .
Verma is being represented by a female lawyer based in the Menorcan capital Mahon. She has not yet made any official comment.
He has been ordered to sign on at Mahon’s Court of Instruction Number 2 on the 1st and 15th of every month. He had to surrender his passport as part of his bail conditions and was given five days to hand over his bail money.
Bomb disposal experts and sniffer dogs were drafted in as part of the response after the plane landed and was taken to an area away from the main part of the airport so it could be inspected before being declared safe.
Unconfirmed reports have pointed to Scotland Yard and French police picking up on the bomb alert on the Snapchat instant messaging app and informing Spanish cops.
The Spanish Civil Guard has not yet commented on the claim.
A spokesman for the Civil Guard confirmed on Monday, before it handed the teenager over to a judge after he was forced to swap his holiday accommodation for two nights in a police cell: ‘The Civil Guard has arrested an 18-year-old British national as the alleged author of a public order offense in Mahon in Menorca.
‘On Sunday the control tower at Menorca Airport was alerted to a bomb threat on a plane heading from London to the island capital Mahon which was still in the air and nearing the airport.
Verma’s comments, which his mother told journalists were just ‘a joke’, could endanger his place at the University of Cambridge
The 18-year-old has been banned from leaving Spain and had to surrender his passport as part of his bail conditions. He was given five days to hand over his bail money, an £8,600 sum
‘The threat was said to have been sent on a social media platform.
‘Once the plane landed it was taken to an area away from the main terminal and other aircraft.
‘The Civil Guard organized a special operation which consisted of mobilizing bomb disposal experts as well as sniffer dogs and other officers who created a safe perimeter around the plane.
‘The passengers were disembarked and established protocol followed until police were able to confirm it was a false bomb threat and the person responsible was identified on social media along with five other companions as witnesses.
‘They were taken to a police station so officers could clarify the situation.’
Passengers were reportedly kept on the tarmac for four hours while the plane was checked out.
The easyJet plane is understood to have touched down around half an hour late at 4.45pm local time on Sunday.
The easyJet plane landed around half an hour late on Sunday, July 4. Verma was traveling with five friends for a holiday, all of whom were taken to a local police station to establish the facts
Passengers were reportedly kept on the tarmac for four hours while the plane was checked out
The incident reportedly led to a Ryanair plane leaving two and half hours late to London.
Tuesday’s court hearing took place behind closed doors as is normal in Spain where only trials are held in public.
The teenager at the center of the extraordinary bomb alert drama has not yet been charged with any crime.
Formal charges in Spain are usually laid in Spain shortly before trial when state prosecutors are invited by an investigating judge to draft an indictment in which they indicate the penalty they are seeking and the crimes they say the accused has committed.